The Express Adda was back on Wednesday evening with Union Minister of Defence and Finance Arun Jaitley holding court in the packed Crystal Room of The Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel, Mumbai.
Jaitley gave an insight into what it was like working in the Narendra Modi government, did not think twice before taking potshots at the media, and said “acchhe din” is already here.
The 90-minute interaction, in which over 500 prominent citizens of Mumbai including top industrialists, politicians, socialites and dignitaries from various fields participated, left most wanting to know more of the new government’s agenda over the coming months and years.
Among those present were Deepak Parekh, Adi Godrej, Rahul Bajaj, Shobhaa De, Zia Mody, Milind Deora, state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis, Rama Bijapurkar and former Mumbai sheriff Indu Shahani.
With his very first answer, Jaitley got the crowd interested. Explaining what is is like to work with Modi, compared with his earlier stint in the NDA government led by A B Vajpayee, he said, “Modi works from morning till night. He follows progress of major policies of each department. At 9 pm, if you visit a minister’s office, you will find 50 per cent of the staff still working.”
Stating that he earlier used to leave office by 6 pm for a cup of coffee with friends at the India International Centre, he said, “Now I leave at 11 pm”.
Jaitley also said the media hardly gets to know what the government is doing or about any of its decisions before they are made public. “Conventionally, the Indian media had become part of the establishment — aware of what’s going to be decided in the Cabinet, what move is being planned. They could predict a Cabinet or list of Governors days in advance,” he said.
That has changed now. And, according to Jaitley, that’s how it should be, “because the fun of the decision is lost otherwise”. Stating that the media doesn’t have too much of an idea what’s happening, he said, “That’s an issue. But that’s how it should be.”
Jaitley said the media also has to live with a government where it can’t report a corruption scandal everyday. “The government is taking decisions one by one. So it is becoming difficult even to criticise most decisions. We are much better off than we were. For instance, the Congress party criticised us because our Foreign Secretary decided to meet the Pakistani Foreign Secretary. There was shelling on the border. When we called it off over a good reason, they questioned why we did that,” he said.
When adman Suhel Seth wanted to know why the laws of the country are against men, although there are many single men in power today, Jaitley retorted, “Try and become Prime Minister”. The house erupted in applause.